Saturday, June 6, 2009

The Palestinian Authority Bites Obama's Hand

MEMRI is publishing a round-up of articles and cartoons in the Arabic-speaking world about President Barack Obama's Cairo speech. Roughly they fall into three categories: Obama is great and this marks a real change; we must await actions to accompany these fine words; and it is all a trick and conspiracy to fool Muslims.

A number of Saudi and Egyptian newspapers are positive, but those in a number of other countries fall into the second (suspicious) or third (rejectionist) categories.

What is most surprising--at least for U.S. policymakers--comes from the Palestinian Authority's (PA) official newspaper, Al-Hayad al-Jadida, written by its veteran editor, Hafez al-Barghouti. Presumably, he would not write something like this if the PA wanted a different response. According to the MEMRI translation he said:

 "We do not expect the new American president to express hostility towards Israel or to demand that it dismantle settlements... He will remain hostage to the American imperialist interests, which are in tandem with [those of] the Israeli occupation...."

This is pretty hostile coming right after the most pro-Palestinian speech ever made by a U.S. president and the visit of PA leader Mahmoud Abbas to Washington, not to mention the fact that the PA is the largest beneficiary per capita of U.S. funds in history and faces no U.S. pressure to live up to its obligations.

Yet it is par for the PA's course. Gratitude is not in the PA's playbook. As shown in the Abbas visit to Washington, President Obama and his administration is likely to experience the PA's lack of cooperation with its effort to create quickly a Palestinian state. Already, for example, Abbas put two preconditions on any negotiations with Israel: stopping all construction on existing settlements and promising the PA a state in advance of any PA compromises or clear picture of what such a diplomatic solution would include.

In addition, violating U.S. law, the PA is still using aid from American taxpayer money to pay for institutions it names in honor of terrorists who murdered Israeli civilians.

 This is because the PA is less eager for a state than Obama is, an element of the situation that many in the administration totally fail to comprehend. It is also due to the fact that Fatah, the PA's ruling party, is still quite radical. A large majority of its leaders still view as their goal Israel's complete destruction while the organization--including Abbas himself--are more eager for a deal with the radical Islamist Hamas than with Israel.

These are all factors that ensure there will be no comprehensive peace agreement and that Obama's policy will fail. He should only learn--and remember--that this outcome is going to be the PA's fault.

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